An Interview with Gulwali Passarlay and the Diverse Opinions on US-Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement

President Hamid Karzai’s inaction over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) had sparked antagonistic reactions in the media. John R. Allen and Michael E. O’Hanlon from the New York Times title their piece ‘Ignore Karzai’s Arrogant Insults‘ (see link), while Xinhua News in China state this in their headline: ‘U.S. warns Afghanistan of civil war if no BSA deal‘ (see link). Washington Post has a milder, more balanced view, in their headlines with ‘U.S. and Afghanistan need to work together to reach deal on forces‘ (see link), while BBC write ‘Afghanistan-US security deal at impasse ahead of jirga‘ (see link).

Locally, Tolo News in Afghanistan state ‘Afghanistan Needs the BSA: Momand‘ (see link), as well as ‘Afghan Businessmen Fear Downturn Without BSA‘ (see link) in support of the BSA, but Ashraf Haidari, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Afghanistan in India, refuted many of these Western claims, stating that Karzai knows best. He writes in his rebuttal to New York Times:

It’s inappropriate for John R. Allen and Michael E. O’Hanlon, two respected experts, to advise that the legitimate concerns of an elected and still overwhelmingly popular president of Afghanistan be ignored.

Of all the people around the negotiating table, President Hamid Karzai is most vested in an outcome that is in the best interest of Afghanistan, which in turn is in the best long-term interest of the United States, if the latter has learned anything from the blowback consequences of its past shortcut deals. (see link)

In similar ways, my 7th December 2013 interview with Gulwali Passarlay shares the same sentiments that President Karzai has Afghans’ interests at heart. In this video segment of Afghan Sound Bytes (see video link below), I raise four questions to Passarlay who is an Afghan refugee residing in the UK:

1. What are your views on the BSA? [00:30]

2. Why would President Karzai go against popular votes of the Loya Jirga? [06:30]

3. Will public services still be sustainable if the donor funding were halted? [11:12]

4. What is your defence against the claim that Karzai is a corrupted man? [15:02]

I end this blog with a very provocative quote, again, by Ashraf Haidari in an article he wrote in 2011, titled ‘Right the Wrong Smart Power in Afghanistan‘ (see link):

Hence, there is no way forward in Afghanistan, unless the international community rethinks the way they have operated in the country so far. To avoid failure and more of the same, they must exploit the strategic opportunity of capitalizing on the many lessons they have learned thus far to replace the “Afghan face” with the “Afghan hands” on getting the job done henceforth. By now, there should be no excuse of not knowing Afghanistan or how to work there effectively. The largest donors have been in Afghanistan for the past ten years, and must have built the institutional memory they need to work in full concert with the government and people of Afghanistan in order to implement the priorities of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, which were presented to the international community in last year’s Kabul conference.

At the same time, the transition to Afghan responsibility, currently underway, must be conditions-based since much remains to be accomplished, because of the reasons discussed above, to ensure that Afghanistan firmly stands on its own. When the country is on a sustainable path towards recovery, the sacrifices and memories of so many people, including NATO and Afghan forces that have fought and fallen together to secure Afghanistan, will be honored. And the Afghan history will record forever the gratitude of the Afghan people to their nation-partners for doing the right thing in Afghanistan.

This, I contend, is the context of situation and context of culture which I have been trying to propose in my own research as one of the more effective ways of intimately understanding local politics and local sentiments and collectively building peace from that perspective. In order for foreign interference to stop being a stumbling block to local development, the word “interference” or “involvement” must first be changed to “collaboration”, “partnership”, and “service” – a ground too dusty, too shaky, too dirty, and too lowly, I reckon, for any US diplomat to want to tread on.

Postscript Erratum: The original “Ashraf Haidari, political counsellor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington” has been recorrected as “Ashraf Haidari, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Afghanistan in India” on 23 December 2013.